The 1980’s was an extremely unique time for film. In a lot of ways it was an extremely open time where pretty much any movie could be made! Movies like Basket Case or The Fun house were extremely odd films even for the decade but they still have a strong following today. Hell, the term “Cult Classic” can generally be attributed to the 1980’s. Many of the B movies during that time. In many ways Krampus is a sort of homage to those types of films in both ridiculousness and in terms of the type of scare to be found within this film. And you know what? It actually works pretty well for the movie overall and gives it a classic feel…well… a cheap classic feel but classic nonetheless.
While the holiday season represents the most magical time of year, ancient European folklore warns of Krampus, a horned beast who punishes naughty children at Christmastime. When dysfunctional family squabbling causes young Max (Emjay Anthony) to lose his festive spirit, it unleashes the wrath of the fearsome demon. As Krampus lays siege to the Engel home, mom (Toni Collette), pop (Adam Scott), sister (Stefania LaVie Owen) and brother must band together to save one another from a monstrous fate.
Now, if you watch this film hoping that it will be either (a) an amazing horror film that will scare the pants off you or your family or (b) thinking that you will get a strong story with zero plot holes, then you will be extremely dissapointed… this isn’t that film nor does it pretend to be. Krampus is full of eye-roll-worthy plot devices, even down to the mysterious old lady that helps the main characters fill in some gaps of understanding. She literally speaks German only the entire film and everyone has to translate for her, which I thought was annoying, but then they go an make it worse. When she reveals who Krampus is and what he does, she tells a harrowing tale of her own past and how her own family was taken away by the evil nega-Santa, and she does this in perfect English. After that, she goes right back to only speaking German… are we supposed to believe that she only has such a minute grasp of the English language that she learned only enough to tell her story and that is it? Really?
Omi’s story is actually told in a cool way as, instead of just hearing her speak or the movie doing a regular flashback, they chose to do an animated flashback which was super clean and nice visual accent for the film as a whole. I couldn’t find a screenshot for this review so…sorry? But take my work for it, I really enjoyed it when it was on screen and I think you will too.
The horror in this film, if you can really call it horror, will probably come from the fact that the majority of American families aren’t too far apart from the family found in Krampus. For many of us, the holidays are a nightmare, we have to see family we don’t like, act as if everything is hunky-dory and then celebrate Christmas. The family in Krampus are literally only together because they are genetically related– you get the feeling that everyone is too polite to just say “fuck it, you’re not invited next year!” What is striking about the family is that, quite honestly, they aren’t all that bad and, in my humble opinion, do not deserve death. Sure, they are asshole for the most part, but as the movie progresses it reveals that a lot of their aggression or hatred is really them masking deeper problems or their own insecurities.
Krampus, the main antagonist in the film, is actually not seen too much throughout. He lets his minions do the talking and for most of the movie it is unclear if people are being taken or killed… or if the distinction really matters. Once someone is taken, can the family even get them back? Those rules are never really explained. But the monsters in the movie are so classic 80’s that I laughed out loud every time one of them was on screen or attacked. We had a snake/clown monster who ate children, warrior gingerbread men, a pissed off teddy bear and a savage angel-like doll that were fairly merciless throughout the film and a lot of the fun in the movie comes from both them attacking and the humans being able to go toe-to-toe with them in the first place. The old lady, named Omi, says that Krampus has being killing for thousands of years, but do they have this kind of trouble with every family?
What I found most humerous in the film was how easy the family sort of… gives up on each other. Don’t get me wrong, a large part of the movie has the family defending each other and trying to save the members as they slowly get picked off. But towards the end, as the savagery and killing of the family continues, survival instincts kick in and there is less and less of the “crying” for the ones that are lost and more of a feeling of “Let’s move on– we need to survive!” At one point their overall plans change from “we need to go out there and get the kids back” to “we need to get out of town and bring help” as they realize there isn’t much they can do to save the lost ones.
(There are spoilers ahead)The crux or the moral of the story is exactly what you would expect… be careful what you wish for. But what I like about this movie is just how unforgiving it is about that moral. Many movies that have that same message do it so that the characters or main character of the story can learn something. They learn to appreciate family or what they have and then things can go back to normal. But this movie has a phenomenal ending both with how unanswered everything is and how they chose not to make it so neat and tidy. By the end of the movie the main character begs for forgiveness and begs for the family, that he once hated, back. And the film makes you think that everything was able to go back to normal– that his please were answered…. but then the last 10 seconds of the film reveals that the family is subject to a much different fate.
Obviously Krampus is not the best movie you will see in 2015, nor will it be best horror movie of this year, but for what the movie is, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. It is not without its plot holes and weirdness but that gives it a lot of uniqueness that many other horror-genre films don’t have. I would recommend seeing it just for the ridiculous monsters alone or even to get a better appreciation for your own family as we begin the holiday season. Just don’t expect a mind-blowing experience! Go in with the mindset that you are watching a movie that should have been made during the 80’s as a ‘B’ movie and I think you will take a lot of enjoyment out of the film.